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A few things to consider before shark fishing

By Mark Sampson

OCEAN CITY -- I applaud those who pursue sharks from the beach. I'm sorry that I don't have the time during the summer months to do so myself. But the more photos I see of sharks taken from the beach, the more concerned I get about the well-being of the sharks that are caught and released. Sandbars, duskies and sand tigers are the larger sharks most likely to be landed by local surf anglers, since they are also three species of sharks that may not legally be retained at any time by recreational anglers, in most cases when a large shark is taken from a Delmarva beach it must be released. As the sport grows, too many anglers are jumping into it without the knowledge or skills needed to ethically deal with such large animals.

Anglers who choose to mess with 100- to 200-pound sharks have better have their act together or the results might not fare well for fish or fisherman. Obviously there are safety issues for those handling the sharks, and one bad move could result in serious injuries. These ain't stripers, boys! For now I'll just suggest that fishermen keep their limbs out of the pointy end of their catch.

I see too many photos of gut-hooked sharks and sharks that have been dragged too far from the water's edge. Anglers must keep in mind that just because they see a shark swim away after release, that it doesn't mean it's OK. Sharks can be so stressed out or damaged by improper handling. That's not a good outcome for the three species so often caught in the surf that are on the Prohibited Species List because their populations are so low.

Do not pull sharks up onto the dry sand for photos or any other reason. Dragging a large shark by its tail can cause injuries to its vertebrae and other internal parts. During the day, the temperature away from the wet zone of the beach is going to be a lot warmer, and warm, dry air does a shark's skin no good.

Before a shark is even hooked anglers should have a plan ready for a quick release. Cameras, tags, measuring devices and any other tools should be ready and available so there's no fumbling around at the last minute. Anglers should also forget about calling in friends or family to "come down to the beach and see what I caught!" There's no time for that. Get the shark in from the surf just far enough that it can be safely handled, snap a few photos and get it back to its home ASAP.

In many of the photos I've seen of sharks on the beach, it's clear that the shark was gut-hooked. While gut-hooking does not necessary mean a death sentence for every fish, it certainly increases the chance for mortality. If a hook impaled in the gut isn't bad enough, imagine the internal damage to a shark that's done if the animal is dragged partially up the beach by the leader. The hooks would likely tear the stomach and impale other organs inside the animal.

I know a lot of beach fishermen are wisely using circle hooks, but some are still doing things the old way and using big double hook rigs with J-hooks. Double J-hook rigs kill sharks. They should never be used. I know a lot of sharkers like to use large baits such as rays, and feel that two hooks are needed to keep the bait properly attached to the rig. That problem can be overcome with a little creative rigging and sometimes the use of cable ties or rigging wire.

Single, non-offset circle hooks -- I suggest the Mustad 39960D -- are the only way to go for shark fishing from beach or boat. Still, circle hooks still have a 5-10 percent chance of gut-hooking. There's something about the way a shark's throat closes-up that too often traps even a circle hook and allows it to embed itself inside the shark rather than in the jaw as it was designed to do.

Observing this, we began experimented with different rigs and hooks that would help ensure that sharks would be hooked in the jaw every time. What we came up with is what we call a blocker rig, a length of plastic pipe mounted perpendicular to the leader a specific distance from the hook. The pipe prevents or "blocks" the fish from swallowing the bait. We've documented an almost 100 percent success rate of preventing gut hooking since we started using these rigs in 2008.

This season we're trying to determine if the blocker-rig is as effective at getting bites as a standard nonblocker rig. We've been fishing both type of rigs side-by-side and recording the results of every bite. So far our records indicate almost a perfect 50-50 split, indicating that the sharks are not shying away from the awkward looking rig.

I didn't really plan on promoting this rig until we'd finished tweaking it out a bit more, but the aforementioned evidence of so many sharks being gut hooked from the beach has prompted me to do so now. I'm certain it has saved the lives of a lot of sharks that would otherwise have eventually died after being gut-hooked.

Blocker rigs are easy to make using PVC or any other type of plastic pipe. For small sharks we use an 8-inch length of plastic tubing, drill a hole through its mid-section and run our wire leader through the hole. Using crimps or twisted wire, the pipe is fastened to the leader 4 inches above the eye of the hook; it can rotate but not slide up or down on the leader. When we expect larger sharks such as makos, blues, tigers, or sand tigers we'll use 14-inch lengths of half-inch PVC mounted 7 inches above the eye of the hook. For really large sharks such as big tigers we increased the length of the pipe to 24 inches since they have such wide mouths. The measurement from the eye of the hook to the pipe is important because if it's too long, the hook can still reach the shark's throat.

Anyone who wishes to try making blocker rigs of their own are welcome to call me in the evening for more details at 410-213-2442 or e-mail me at modernsharking@ gmail.com.

Source - A few things to consider before shark fishing | delmarvanow.com | The Daily Times

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I recommend Capt. Mark Sampsons' book MODERN SHARKING. Well written by a professional with great incite to conservation and education. I'm looking fwd to booking a charter with him aboard the FISH FINDER in the next month or so. I read it cover to cover in about a day...

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I recommend Capt. Mark Sampsons' book MODERN SHARKING. Well written by a professional with great incite to conservation and education.
Totally agree.. Great book and well written with illustrations. :icon_thumleft:

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i have read his book and found it very informative, it is a must if interested in shark fishing.

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Just ordered Sampson's book on Amazon. Looking forward to some good reading. Thanks for the tip.

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